Циганська дорога: політизація стереотипів циганської міґрації в Україні д-р Адріяни Гельбіґ

December 10, 2005

Адріяна Гельбіґ

The stereotype of Tsyhan nomadism is perpetuated in part through the continued use of the term tabir (camp) to reference compact Roma settlements in Transcarpathia and in rural settings throughout Ukraine. Originally used to describe temporary settlements of traveling Roma groups, tabir, in and of itself, does not describe a permanent dwelling; rather, it implies a temporary stop-over. However, many tsyhanski tabory, especially in Transcarpathia, are more than one hundred years old. Yet many non-Roma still believe Roma to be nomadic. This perception is amplified through the non-Roma association of all Tsyhany with street beggars who, while constituting a significantly small percent of the Roma population, are very visible and are the segment of the Roma population with which the majority of non-Roma in Ukraine have the most first-hand experience.

Писанка «Циганська дорога» «Джелем, Джелем»
«Ми йдемо»
Гимн ромів

There are 168 Roma settlements in the Transcarpathian region with populations that range from 200 to 2,000 Roma (according to unofficial statistics there are 350,000 Roma in Ukraine; the 2001 Ukraine census place this number at 47,600). The tsyhanski tabory are predominantly situated on the outskirts of towns and villages. Their social exclusion and economic marginalization is enacted through the physical positioning of the Roma settlements themselves, marked in Ukrainian villages and towns by distinct intersections. These intersections are in many ways a metaphor for Roma and non-Roma social interaction. Non-Roma will rarely enter a Roma settlement. Those who do are mostly local police and, more recently, international development workers. Roma, on the other hand, are dependent upon non-Roma in every aspect of their lives and need to know how to interact with non-Roma in order to “get anywhere.” Just as non-Roma rarely cross into Roma settlements, contact between Roma and non-Roma in all forms of interaction is defined for the most part on non-Roma terms.

Циганські музики із Закарпаття У циганській хаті готуються до Пасхи

The socio-geographical separateness between Roma and non-Roma is illustrated and reinforced through labels and nominators, namely Roma/Tsyhany and gadje/non-Roma. “Roma,” meaning “person” in Romanes, is an ethno-political self-definition given by the group itself in response to the growing worldwide movement aimed to unite Roma groups of people by accenting similarities in culture, historical experience, and political challenges. ‘Gadje’ is a Roma signifier that references non-Roma. Tsyhany, stemming from the Greek word Atsigani, the name of a heathen sect in the Byzantine Empire, is a negatively derived ethnic definition imposed upon the group by outsiders. The heteronym for Tsyhan in Ukraine is nomad. Similar to the word Gypsy, a term applied to Roma groups by outsiders who had erroneously thought they had come from Egypt, Tsyhan carries the racial implications of an outsider, one who comes from someplace else, and does not belong “here”. Hence, the dark-skinned nomad, whose wanderings position him beyond the control of the state, is vilified in relation to the good, white, law-abiding European citizen.

Василь Махно і Адріяна Гельбіґ Адріяна Гельбіґ
Лариса Онишкевич і Адріяна Гельбіґ Ентоні Морріс і Адріяна Гельбіґ

In light of the heightened mobility among non-Roma (approximately seven million people have left Ukraine for economic reasons since 1991), much anti-Roma discrimination continues to be strongly rooted in non-Roma prejudice against nomads, or people perceived to be migrants. Ironically, in terms of postsocialist migration patterns, Roma represent the least mobile segment of Ukrainian society. Many do not have passports and do not have the economic means to travel from place to place. Many Roma are harassed on the road and migrant workers returning from Eastern Ukraine to Transcarpathia at the end of the summer are often attacked and robbed by mafia gangs who terrorize the transportation system in Ukraine. Thus, while it is the non-Roma who have left or now travel more freely across the borders than ever before, the negativity attached to migration and movement continues, for the most part, to be solely projected onto the non-nomadic Roma.

Світляна Андрушків Лариса Онишкевич, Марія Гельбіґ, Адріяна Гельбіґ, Софія Геврик, Христина Карпевич і Наталя Соневицька